Birds of a Feather

Now that spring has officially arrived, let’s continue with the theme of flight and turn our eyes to the skies once again for bird migration season.

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) August 28, 1904, PART FOUR, Page 30, Image 30.

Lake County examiner. (Lakeview, Lake County, Or.) June 27, 1912, Image 2.

Birds of all kinds, like these Golden eagles, will soon be returning to their nests for the spring to hatch new chicks, if they haven’t already…

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) August 21, 1904, PART FOUR, Page 30, Image 30.

Bird migrations have presented many mysteries to those who have studied and observed their flights and behaviors. How do birds know when and where to go, and how do they communicate with each other? At one time it was believed that some migrating birds would spend their winters beneath the waves of the ocean.

The Coos Bay times. (Marshfield, Or.) April 10, 1915, EVENING EDITION, MAGAZINE SECTION, Page 8, Image 16.

Apparently it was also once believed that birds used the stars as a map to guide them during night flights:

Lake County examiner. (Lakeview, Lake County, Or.) November 23, 1905, Image 2.

As land-bound humans, it’s hard to know or even imagine where birds fly to, and how far some birds fly, during migration:

Medford mail tribune. (Medford, Or.) June 12, 1911, PAGE FOUR, Image 4.

Although nature has some secrets that we may never learn, we now know a bit more than we used to about where birds go during the different seasons, thanks to increased observations and advances in science and technology. For example, photography has provided a reliable way to document the appearance, behavior, and habitat of countless bird species:

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) July 21, 1901, PART FOUR, Image 25.

Additionally, bird-banding has helped ornithologists track individual birds to see where they end up after they fly away, and the evolution of the Christmas Bird Count, a worldwide bird census that evolved from the match hunts of the 19th century, has provided extensive data on different bird species’ flight behaviors, habitats, and relationships to their surrounding environments over time. Today, bird observations recorded by region during the Christmas Bird Count are collected by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University, and the combined data reveals trends in bird population and migration patterns.

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) September 04, 1904, PART FOUR, Page 31, Image 31.

This spring, birds will be migrating all over the world, North America, and especially Oregon, since it is located along the Pacific Flyway bird migration flight path. Although birds can be seen in Oregon at any time of year, spring migration season can often bring special sights to the various regions of the state.

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) August 11, 1901, PART FOUR, Image 25.

Oregon’s Willamette Valley is an excellent habitat for birds, and a popular location for birdwatchers, in addition to the many forest homes that Oregon provides:

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) August 27, 1905, PART FOUR, Image 38.

Birds are not just entertaining, fun, and beautiful to watch, they are also an integral part of the earth’s ecosystem. Loss of natural habitats, excessive sport hunting, the killing of birds for their feathers, and threats from invasive species are just a few of the perils that birds have faced throughout history. Luckily, thanks to conservation-oriented organizations such as the Audubon Society, coupled with legislative action by the U.S. government, several bird species are still alive and thriving today.

Portland new age. (Portland, Or.) July 21, 1906, Image 8.

We also have the birds themselves to thank – many species have managed to adapt rather well to urban landscapes:

Morning Oregonian. (Portland, Or.) March 10, 1903, Page 11, Image 11.

The people of Portland continue to show respect for birds through their Urban Migratory Bird Program. On behalf of our feathered friends, let’s keep up the good work, and happy birding!

The Sunday Oregonian. (Portland, Ore.) September 10, 1905, PART FOUR, Page 40, Image 40.

“I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.”

– Charles Lindbergh

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